Reset and Recharge: Global Spa Series 001 - Hammam Rituals

While the holidays can bring excitement, for many it can also be a time of anxiety, exhaustion, and stress. In light of this, AGLOWE will start the year off with a spa ritual series that will help you learn about spa treatments to reset and recharge. Spa rituals have been in existence for centuries using various methodologies in different regions. Despite the variability, spa rituals share the same goals to improve one’s health, enhance beauty, and promote relaxation. Kicking off the spa series we will share insight on hammam practices.

A Hammam is a term for both the place and traditional body cleansing ritual through water or steam. Hammam, originating from the Arabic word ‘hama’ means spreader of warmth, and can date back to over 2000 years during the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Empires when physical and spiritual cleanliness was believed to be of high importance. While good hygiene is a key benefit of the hammam tradition, the practice also encouraged a way for people to commune and share the latest gossip, relax, and stimulate the healing of the body. These practices were later adopted by Arabic cultures in the Middle East and North Africa. Later on variations of the hammam practice became available around the world. However, the most common forms of hammam is the Turkish bath and the Moroccan hammam.

Turkish Bath

A Turkish bath is initiated by entering a sıcaklık (the hot room). The marble-covered hot room consists of several washing sections, kurna (water basins) set around the wall, and a göbek taşı (heated marble platform). One would get wet by pouring water all over your body. Then, lay down on the göbek taşı for a few minutes. After 10-15 minutes, a tellak or natir (male or femaie attendant) exfoliates one’s skin with a kese (traditional exfoliating glove) after the skin has been softened by the heat . The attendant will then cleanse the body with cold water, and follow up with washing the body with a lace cloth for a foamy massage. The treatment ends by laying back on the göbek taşı in the hot room to relax. After the treatment, one typically has water, tea, or şerbet (cold, sweetened fruit juice) to reset. On average the treatment can take 1.5-2 hours. Below is a list of a few top Turkish bath houses including links:

Traditional and Hotel Spas in Turkey

  1. Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı

  2. Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı

  3. Cagaloglu Hamami

  4. Çemberlitas Hamami

  5. Ritz-Carlton Istanbul Hammam

  6. Çukurcuma Hamamı 1831

  7. eforea Spa at Hilton

  8. Iridium Spa at The St. Regis Istanbul

  9. The Bodrum EDITION

  10. Sanitas Spa at Çırağan Palace Kempinski

Moroccan Hammam

A Moroccan hammam visit typically begins in a dry hot room to acclimate to the heat. Following this, one will go into a humid steam room to sweat any impurities. After this a tellak or natir (male or femaie attendant) will apply black soap to your skin then after 5-10 minutes the skin will be rinsed with a lot of water followed by the exfoliation of dead skin with a kese.After the exfoliation, some spas may add a purifying rhassolul mask to absorb impurities from the skin, others may provide a massage, and another option is to rehydrate the skin with pure argan oil. After the treatment, one would relax over mint tea or water. On average the treatment can take 1.5-2 hours. Below is a list of a few top Moroccan hammams including links:

Traditional and Hotel Spas in Morocco

  1. Spa at The Royal Mansour

  2. Hammam Rose Bonheur

  3. Les Bains de Orient

  4. Hammam Dar El Bacha

  5. La Mamounia

  6. Le Spa Namaskar

  7. Palais Amani

  8. Lina Ryad and Spa

Hammam Tips/Etiquette

  • All hammams are not the same. Traditional and modern hammams have different requirements and experiences. Please do your research before your encounter.

  • Typically hammam spaces are gender segregated.

  • Hammam treatments do not require you to disrobe completely and often asks to keep on bottoms (dark undergarments are typically worn). Some spas may require swimwear or provide undergarments.

  • Bring extra undergarments for after the spa experience.

  • Although some spas provides this, bring flip flops.

  • Remember to remove your makeup, glasses, or contact lenses.

  • It is proper to tip the attendants who scrub and/or massage you.

  • The hammam can be very hot. If you have an acute respiratory illness please check with a medical professional before engaging in a hammam experience. It is also not recommended to go in the bath with a fever, pregnancy, skin infections or sunburn.

  • After your treatment, take time to relax and reset by laying down, hydrating, and being thankful of the experience. This is often the most underappreciated part of your spa experience.

Stay tuned for a comprehensive list of spa details by region at the end of the spa ritual series!